Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Steal this idea, Hollywood: Not your average nightly news...

Here is an idea I have for a weekly television program. Call it "The National News" and make it look exactly like a network nightly news show. In the beginning, actually have the anchors cover some ordinary news that happened that day. but also mix in a bunch of weird stuff, saying things like: "Authorities aren't sure what caused..." Some of it is really freaky and thought-provoking.

Over time, we get more "amateur footage," some investigative journalism and competing theories about these strange phenomena. Including some interviews with crazy scientists (one with theories about aliens, another about government conspiracies, etc.), nutty religious leaders calling it the apocalypse, etc. Also, we get some clips of the President talking - out of context, of course. Other famous people could cameo as themselves. Overall, production costs are kept kind low, because the special effects need to look grainy to be mysterious.

Then (during sweeps) we get lucky and some clear footage emerges, and we see that's it's... superheroes! Or aliens! Or, what the hell, both! And let's throw in some robots while we're at it. And a zombie plague. And somebody who brings dinosaurs back to life. And... well, you get the point. It's some very wild stuff, and it's actually happening and building in momentum, and the world is turning into a comic book right before our eyes.

Eventually, it becomes what the news would be every night if the world became that crazy. We get summaries of the amazing things happening in the world. And we get to see breaking footage as something heroic is happening. We get to know the characters that save the day as the news cameras capture them in action, and maybe even get them to sit down for an interview. But it's all told from the everyman point-of-view: how you and I would react if this shit was real.

Full disclosure: this idea borrows heavily from Kurt Busiek's Marvels (beautifully illustrated by Alex Ross), but that was a great comic book mini-series. And I think the concept would make a great TV series. Step up, Hollywood!

Images courtesy of Futurama, Alex Ross.

Friday, June 24, 2011

I'll probably never get a Red Tornado movie now...

I recently wrote about what the future might hold for Warner Brothers Studios and DC Comics if they could get their act together and start making quality movies with their secondary characters, instead of just relying on Superman and Batman.

As it turns out, they can't. The Green Lantern movie that was just released has been almost universally panned by critics and is underperforming at the box office. With a $200 million production budget and $100 million marketing campaign, Green Lantern represented a big investment and a big gamble for Warner/DC. By all accounts, the special effects were dazzling and the cast was pretty strong - especially Ryan Reynolds (as the human Green Lantern, Hal Jordan) and Mark Strong (as one of the alien Green Lanterns, Sinestro). So what went wrong?

There are a lot of factors that can be blamed. Certainly the script and directing were not up to par. And, let's face it, Green Lantern is one of the more ridiculous superheroes. But it comes down to one thing: the studio did not have faith in the character.

If they would have, they would have taken Marvel's approach. Rather than making "the Star Wars of superhero movies," as they said they were trying to do (little did we know they meant Episode I), they should have been trying to make the Green Lantern of superhero movies.

The fact is, the public isn't tired of superhero movies anymore than they're tired of action, science fiction or romantic comedies. They're just tired of bad superhero movies. Just as in every other genre, studios too often try to take the safe path and make a movie with broad appeal. This is a death warrant for any movie, because what ultimately brings people to theaters is originality and compelling storytelling.

That is amplified in a superhero movie. Let's face it: comic books are not nuanced. There is no deep subtext there, just a very simple, very familiar premise. Each character may have its own unique, over-the-top spin on the genre, but they all ultimately live and die on their storytelling.

Marvel Studios gets it: they keep the budget modest but take extra care to have a story that does justice to the character, and match it to a director that can bring that unique vision to life. Thor mat not have been the best movie ever (although my eight-year-old thinks so), but it was a solid, four-star movie that managed to dazzle and delight with a relatively modest budget. It's a movie I want to see again, and I eagerly await the next installment.

Warner Brothers still hasn't figured it out. They lucked out by having a writer-director with vision like Christopher Nolan helm the Batman franchise. But they don't seem to appreciate the chances that Nolan took to make that work. They still don't know what they've got.

And that's sad, because what they've got is an amazing collection of characters and stories stretching back to before World War II. Green Lantern deserved better. Yes, he's ridiculous, but so is Thor. So is Superman, for that matter. But if you were committed to telling a good story, you could take an even more ridiculous character and make an amazing movie.

Heck, I would pay to see a Red Tornado movie if it was done right!

So here's a new strategy for Warner Brothers: 1) Strike a deal with DreamWorks or a similar animation studio. 2) Make sure you leave talented people in charge who are passionate about the source material. 3) Task them to create a series of family-friendly CGI films (a la The Incredibles and the TV show Batman: The Brave and the Bold) staring with The Justice League. (This plays to DC's strengths - their classic stories are more cartoonish than Marvel's - and ensures a built-in, superhero-crazy audience of eight-year-olds and their dads.) 4) Get out of the way.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Making baseball more major league

Major League Baseball is considering moving either Arizona or Houston from the National League to the American League. That would give the two leagues 15 teams each and ensure interleague play every day of the season.

I agree the unbalanced divisions are unwieldy, but the proposed solution just trades today's problems for tomorrow's. I have a better idea.

Why not split into five "leagues" of six teams each. That way everything would be balanced. We could take the old (1969-1993) East-West division alignments as a starting point, with just a few tweaks, and slot in the expansion teams since then:

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Baltimore
Boston
Cleveland
Detroit
NY Yankees
Toronto

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Chicago Cubs
Milwaukee
NY Mets
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
St. Louis

PACIFIC LEAGUE
Arizona
Colorado
LA Dodgers
San Diego
San Francisco
Seattle

SOUTHERN LEAGUE
Atlanta
Cincinnati
Florida
Houston
Tampa Bay
Washington

WESTERN LEAGUE
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City
LA Angels
Minnesota
Oakland
Texas

In this scenario, the leagues could each choose whether or not to use the Designated Hitter. (I'm guessing "yes" for the AL and WL, and "no" for the rest.) Interleague play is increased (each league plays two of the other four leagues each year on a rotating basis), but down the stretch everyone plays their own so we can have exciting pennant races. And in the playoffs, we get the five league winners (one less than today's division winners) and three wildcards (one more than today), all seeded together to increase the likelihood that the two best teams reach the finals. Plus, the shake-up would generate buzz and interest in the game, while really not messing much with traditional rivalries.

And as far as the All-Star game goes, how about fan picks vs. manager picks? That would be a great way for us to see all the fan favorites, as well as be introduced to some unheralded heroes on the big stage.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Making hockey more provincial

After a thrilling Stanley Cup finals, the NHL must now turn its attention to the next task at hand: figuring out what to do with the new Winnipeg team now that it has relocated from Atlanta. Atlanta is currently in the Southeast Division, and for those of you who don't know (and if not, shame on you!), Winnipeg is definitely not in the southeast. Several ideas have been tossed around about how to realign, but they all suffer the same fatal flaw: under the current six-division structure, at least one Eastern time zone team like Detroit or Columbus will end up playing in the Western Conference.

Actually, it is not just the misplaced Eastern teams that have it rough. The NHL is the most geographically imbalanced major sports league - with the majority of its teams concentrated in the northeast - and because of that, the rest of the league has a pretty awful travel situation. There are only four NHL teams in the Pacific time zone, four in Mountain time, six in Central (it was only five before Atlanta moved to Winnipeg), and the rest in the East.

I have looked at the problem from multiple angles, and I think I've come up with the only sensible solution. The problem is that the NHL is trying to cram 30 teams into the same two-conference structure that other leagues use. But hockey has always been different, and that's part of its charm. So the best solution is to make it even more different, even more provincial, and make the bold move to not two but four conferences.

The new conferences would allow teams to clump together more easily along natural geographic lines that would reduce travel. It would also have the benefit of intensifying rivalries, which has a history of success in hockey. Here is how I would recommend dividing the league:

ATLANTIC CONFERENCE
Carolina
Florida
New Jersey
NY Islanders
NY Rangers
Philadelphia
Tampa Bay
Washington

CENTRAL CONFERENCE
Chicago
Dallas
Detroit
Minnesota
Nashville
St. Louis
Winnipeg

NORTHEAST CONFERENCE
Boston
Buffalo
Columbus
Montreal
Ottawa
Pittsburgh
Toronto

PACIFIC CONFERENCE
Anaheim
Calgary
Colorado
Edmonton
Los Angeles
Phoenix
San Jose
Vancouver

Each team would play all of their conference rivals five or six times per season, and each of the other teams twice each. (Under the current structure, some non-conference teams are only played once, which means West Coast fans may miss the opportunity to see Sidney Crosby in person, for example.) In the playoffs, the top four teams from each conference would battle in the opening rounds, similar to how the league operated from 1981-1993. The four conference champs would be re-seeded for the semi-finals, helping to ensure that the best teams meet in the finals. (As for the All-Star game, it would return to the North America vs. World format that it flirted with a few years ago.)

If this structure were in place this year, this is how the playoffs might have gone:

ATLANTIC
(1) Washington over (4) NY Rangers
(3) Tampa Bay over (2) Philadelphia
Conference finals: Tampa Bay over Washington.

CENTRAL
(1) Detroit over (4) Dallas
(2) Nashville over (3) Chicago
Conference finals: Detroit over Nashville

NORTHEAST
(4) Buffalo over (1) Pittsburgh
(2) Boston over (3) Montreal
Conference finals: Boston over Buffalo

PACIFIC
(1) Vancouver over (4) Phoenix
(2) San Jose over (3) Anaheim
Conference finals: Vancouver over San Jose

SEMI-FINALS
(1) Vancouver over (4) Detroit
(2) Boston over (3) Tampa Bay

STANLEY CUP FINALS
Boston over Vancouver

Most importantly, fans across the NHL would have seen highly relevant, geographic rivalries in the early rounds on a fairly consistent basis, helping fuel interest in both hockey-crazed and hockey-confused NHL cities alike.

It probably won't save struggling Phoenix or Nashville, but hockey-crazed Quebec City and Hamilton, Ontario beckon for them. In the meantime, this proposed realignment should make the remaining teams stronger and reduce the overall travel burden. Game on!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What will DC / Warner Brothers do next?

A while back, I wrote about the success Marvel Studios has seen with their character-driven, shared-universe superhero movies (of which I have become a big fan), and speculated about what we might see from them in the future. If they so desired, rival comics company DC (which is owned by Warner Brothers) has just as rich a catalog of super beings that it could use to create its own shared universe.

The DC / Warner Brothers track record isn’t as strong as Marvel’s lately, with only Christopher Nolan’s Batman series achieving critical and box office success, but the Green Lantern movie that opens this weekend could change that if it manages to launch this little-known character into its own franchise. And just as Marvel will bring together its various franchises into The Avengers next year, DC has hinted that they will develop their own team-up movie for 2013, featuring its greatest heroes, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and more. Assuming this is true, and that the success of The Avengers convinces DC to follow a similar path, we could be seeing two DC movies per year starting in 2014.

Here are the movies that have either been released already or are in the works, which could become part of that shared universe:

2005
  • Batman Begins
2008
  • The Dark Knight
2011
  • Green Lantern
2012
  • The Dark Knight Rises
  • Superman: Man of Steel

DC / Warner has had a lot of flops, but if they can match Marvel’s formula for success, here are the additional films we could see from them for the rest of this decade:

2013
  • The Justice League – While Nolan’s Batman trilogy took place in a world without superpowers, I would keep it as part of the continuity, evolving the character and his world instead of completely rebooting the franchise. That would make Batman the elder statesman of this team-up movie, and explain why this ‘ordinary man” is able to stand toe-to-toe with these extraordinary beings. Even if they don’t use Christian Bale as Batman, I hope they will hint that Nolan’s trilogy is still valid. The movie should also exist in the same world as Green Lantern, although they could use an alternate Green Lantern like Jon Stewart instead of the Hal Jordan character played by Ryan Reynolds in this year’s movie.
2014
  • Wonder Woman – One of DC’s “big three” (along with Superman and Batman), Wonder Woman deserves her own movie franchise. But don’t expect it to be campy like the Linda Carter TV show. Today’s Wonder Woman is a fierce warrior who is not afraid to shed blood. We should have a taste of this in The Justice League, where her sense of morality will clash with Superman’s.
  • Green Lantern 2 – Hal Jordan is back, and Sinestro turns evil.
2015
  • The Flash – One of the coolest of all the superheroes, this should be a fun, action-packed origin story for the world’s fastest man, with ground-breaking special effects to show the high-speed action: I suggest every scene happens in real time from one camera angle, and then another angle shows it to us slowed down so that the Flash looks normal speed.
  • Superman 2 – Go cosmic in this installment, and eventually let us see Darkseid. But Superman can’t defeat him on his own, which sets up…
2016
  • The Justice League 2 – The heroes travel to Apokolips to battle Darkseid and his minions.
  • AquamanI’ve written about this before: Aquaman all too often seems like the lamest superhero, but there’s a ton of potential here if done right.
2017
  • Batman 4 – Christopher Nolan has said he won’t be back to direct, but this franchise is too good to die. Please keep the spirit of Nolan’s films, and keep the super-human elements to a minimum.
  • Green Lantern 3 – Star Sapphire is the villain in this one.
2018
  • Superman 3 – Lex Luthor can take more of the stage here, but he should be menacing and should put Superman in harm’s way, with lots of action. And Superman should get his ass handed to him – but no kryptonite!
  • Wonder Woman 2 – Again, make her badass. That is all.
2019
  • Green Arrow: Escape from Super Max – This long-rumored film features the Green Arrow, who has been wrongfully imprisoned in a high-security jail for super-villains. With no super powers of his own, he must find a way to battle the baddies, break out and save the world.
  • The Justice League 3 – Keep the franchise going with another Earth-saving, action-packed movie.
2020
  • Batman 5 – Introduce Robin in this one as a Batman emulator who’s good enough to actually be a hero on his own. He never becomes Batman’s sidekick, but does earn his respect.
  • Adam Strange – Some good, Flash Gordon-style space camp – plus superheroes.
2021
  • Teen Titans – Robin gets his own team in a film that will hopefully capture the magic of the Marv Wolfman / George Perez comics of the early 1980s.
  • Superman 4 – One word: Brainiac.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Super summer showdown: conclusion


Well, that all seemed like a waste of time! Marvel won, but only barely: DC was definitely within the margin of error. The two were virtually tied in heroes, Marvel held a slight advantage in anti-heroes, and DC held a slight advantage in villains.

Personally, I think DC has slightly better top heroes, and Marvel has more depth – but the truth is they’re both good. Let’s hope they keep making comic books, and more importantly comic book movies, for a long time.

Finally, just for fun, here are my votes for the top 20 heroes and villains from these universes. As you can see, DC holds the top spot in both charts, while Marvel has a slight edge in numbers. Again, pretty much a wash.

Top 20 Superheroes

1. Batman (DC)
2. Wolverine (Marvel)
3. Spider-Man (Marvel)
4. Superman (DC)
5. The Flash (DC)
6. Iron Man (Marvel)
7. Captain America (Marvel)
8. Green Lantern (DC)
9. Hulk (Marvel)
10. Wonder Woman (DC)
11. The Thing (Marvel)
12. Thor (Marvel)
13. Daredevil (Marvel)
14. Robin (DC)
15. The Human Torch (Marvel)
16. Silver Surfer (Marvel)
17. Martian Manhunter (DC)
18. Hawkeye (Marvel)
19. Green Arrow (DC)
20. Black Panther (Marvel)

Top 20 Supervillains

1. The Joker (DC)
2. Magneto (Marvel)
3. Lex Luthor (DC)
4. Doctor Doom (Marvel)
5. Darkseid (DC)
6. Galactus (Marvel)
7. Venom (Marvel)
8. Juggernaut (Marvel)
9. Ra’s al Ghul (DC)
10. Black Adam (DC)
11. The Green Goblin (Marvel)
12. Brainiac (DC)
13. Bane (DC)
14. Apocalypse (Marvel)
15. Solomon Grundy (DC)
16. Doctor Octopus (Marvel)
17. Gorilla Grodd (DC)
18. Thanos (Marvel)
19. Kingpin (Marvel)
20. The Rhino (Marvel)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Super summer showdown, round eleven: the agents of chaos

In this final round, we see a bunch of villains who, in the words of Batman’s butler Alfred, “just want to watch the world burn.” For the heroes, that makes them unpredictable and dangerous. For us, the observers, that makes them a blast.

Contest #101: The Joker (DC) vs. The Green Goblin (Marvel)

The Joker is the ultimate psychopath, a brilliant but insane villain who finds humor in others’ misfortune. He doesn’t have a single superpower – he just knows how to push all the right buttons. The Green Goblin is also insane, but has a few more gadgets up his sleeve. For him, it’s Halloween every day as he rides around on a flying scooter throwing “pumpkin bombs.” Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: The Joker. Most firepower: The Green Goblin. Most heart: The Joker. Most compelling character: The Joker. Overall winner: The Joker. He was already a pretty versatile bad guy, but Heath Ledger’s performance of him in The Dark Knight put him over the top as the best comic book villain ever.

Contest #102: Obsidian (DC) vs. Venom (Marvel)

Obsidian is the mentally unstable son of the original, World War II era Green Lantern – the one who wears red and whose weakness is wood, not the one who wears green and whose weakness is the color yellow. (Uh… just trust me on that…) He has the power to merge with his shadow and send tendrils of it out to envelop people, among other things. Venom is one of Marvel’s most interesting villains, even though it was portrayed horribly in Spiderman 3. It is an alien symbiote that merges with its host, forming a kind of black, skin-like covering. Once attached, the creature enhances its host with special powers. Oh, and turns the host evil. Classically coolest: Venom. Most badass: Venom. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: Venom. Most compelling character: Venom. Overall winner: Venom.


Contest #103: Poison Ivy (DC) vs. The Enchantress (Marvel)

Poison Ivy is a botanist supervillain who can control plants. She can also use plant toxins to hypnotize men and bend them to her will, The Enchantress is one of Thor’s Asgardian kin, who – among other things – uses magic to bend men to her will. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: The Enchantress. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Poison Ivy. Overall winner: This is a tough one, but Poison Ivy has me in her spell.


Contest #104: The Riddler (DC) vs. Arcade (Marvel)

The Riddler is a crook who seems less interested in getting rich than in leaving elaborate but solvable riddle clues that allow Batman to ultimately thwart him. Arcade is a crook who seems to only be interested in creating elaborate, carnival-ride-like death traps for heroes to ultimately escape from. Classically coolest: The Riddler. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: The Riddler. Most compelling character: tie. Overall winner: The Riddler.


Contest #105: Black Manta (DC) vs. Mole Man (Marvel)

Black Manta is one of Aquaman’s arch-nemeses, a man with a super-powered diving suit and an irrational desire to conquer Atlantis. Mole Man is a man who fled underground from the world that he perceived had betrayed him, periodically returning with a horde of subterranean goons to try to conquer the surface and exact his vengeance. Classically coolest: Black Manta. Most badass: Black Manta. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: Mole Man. Most compelling character: tie. Overall winner: Black Manta. His ellipsoidal diving helmet is much cooler than Mole Man’s thick 3D-glasses look


Contest #106: Cyborg Superman (DC) vs. Ultron (Marvel)

Cyborg Superman is a villain who is half machine and half organic replica of Superman. (What did you think he would be?) When Doomsday (temporarily) killed Superman, Cyborg Superman claimed to be the real deal and cuased all kinds of mischief. Ultron is a bad Skynet prototype: a virtually indestructible robot originally built by Hank Pym (Ant-Man) to aid humanity, who instead decided to destroy it. Classically coolest: Ultron. Most badass: Ultron. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: Ultron. Most compelling character: tie. Overall winner: Ultron.


Contest #107: Harley Quinn (DC) vs. Crossbones (Marvel)

These are two of the better recent additions to DC and Marvel’s rogues galleries. Harley Quinn is a disciple of the Joker who dresses like a harlequin jester and uses her expertise in psychoanalysis to create chaos. Crossbones is a disciple of the Red Skull who dresses like a member of Slip Knot and uses his military expertise to create chaos. Classically coolest: Harley Quinn. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: Crossbones. Most heart: Harley Quinn. Most compelling character: Harley Quinn. Overall winner: Harley Quinn.


Contest #108: Two-Face (DC) vs. Sebastian Shaw (Marvel)

Two-Face is a former respectable district attorney who was driven mad by an accident that left him scarred on half of his face. Having turned to crime, he prefers to leave a lot to chance – flipping a coin to make crucial decisions, such as, for example, whether he’ll let someone live or die. Sebastian Shaw, portrayed by Kevin Bacon in the new X-Men: First Class movie, is a mutant who absorbs kinetic energy to increase his own strength. On the surface, he is a respectable businessman, but secretly he’s the head of the Hellfire Club, a secret organization seeking world domination. Classically coolest: Two-Face. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: Sebastian Shaw. Most heart: Two-Face. Most compelling character: Two-Face. Overall winner: Two-Face.


Contest #109: Professor Zoom (DC) vs. Speed Demon (Marvel)

An evil version of the Flash, Professor Zoom (also known as the Reverse-Flash) has been a constant thorn in his counterpart’s side. Speed Demon (also known, unfortunately, as the Whizzer) is pretty similar but less of a fixture in his universe. Classically coolest: Professor Zoom. Most badass: Professor Zoom. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Professor Zoom. Overall winner: Professor Zoom.


Contest #110: Mr. Mxyzptlk (DC) vs. Loki (Marvel)

Mr. Mxyzptlk is a magical imp from another dimension who shows up periodically just to give Superman trouble. The only way to banish this Great Gazoo prototype back to his own dimension is to make him say his own name backwards. (“Kltpzyxm,” in case you’re wondering. Simple, eh?) Loki is Thor’s adopted brother who harbors a huge chip on his shoulder against his sibling. The “God of Mischief,” a master of magic, shows up periodically just to give Thor trouble. Classically coolest: Loki. Most badass: Loki. Most firepower: Mr. Mxyzptlk. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Loki. Overall winner: Loki. He wins this contest hands down, even before Tom Hiddleston’s winning portrayal in Thor.


Round eight score: A big leap for DC, but not quite enough – DC 7, Marvel 3. Cumulative score: DC 54, Marvel 56.

Next: the thrilling conclusion!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Super summer showdown, round ten: crooks and thugs

You know, sometimes a villain doesn’t have to be a galaxy-conqueror to be fun. Sometimes, all he has to have is a bad attitude and a gimmick.

Contest #91: The Shark (DC) vs. The Rhino (Marvel)

The Shark is a mutated shark in humanoid form (which, for some reason, means his dorsal fin is on his head instead of his back) with telepathy, the ability to shoot energy bolts and a host of other powers. The Rhino is a dimwitted bruiser with a rhino suit permanently affixed to his skin, giving him enough super strength to tussle with the Hulk, plus some wicked horns on his head. Classically coolest: The Rhino. Most badass: The Rhino. Most firepower: The Shark. Most heart: The Rhino. Most compelling character: The Rhino. Overall winner: The Rhino – an underappreciated villain if there ever was one!

Contest #92: Bizarro (DC) vs. Carnage (Marvel)

Bizarro is a twisted version of Superman (actually a clone) with similar powers. Carnage is a twisted version of Spiderman (actually an alien) with even stronger powers. Classically coolest: Bizarro. Most badass: Carnage. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: Bizarro. Most compelling character: Bizarro. Overall winner: Bizarro.


Contest #93: Man-Bat (DC) vs. Vulture (Marvel)

Man-Bat is a half-man, half-bat mutation with webbed arms that let him fly. The Vulture is a bald human crook that uses a feathered super suit to fly. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Vulture. Overall winner: Vulture.


Contest #94: Cheetah (DC) vs. Lady Deathstrike (Marvel)

In recent years, the Cheetah has gone from just being a woman in a costume to having super powers rivaling those of her arch-enemy Wonder Woman. But she’s still basically a woman in a cheetah costume. Lady Deathstrike is a mutant with powers similar to Wolverine, with long, razor sharp fingernails. Classically coolest: Cheetah. Most badass: Lady Deathstrike. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: Cheetah. Most compelling character: Cheetah. Overall winner: Cheetah. Sometimes the simple ideas are the better ones.


Contest #95: Mister Freeze (DC) vs. Electro (Marvel)

Mister Freeze is a scientist whose body was mutated by chemicals so that he can only survive at sub-zero temperatures. He wears a special suit to keep himself cold and uses a freeze gun. Electro is a master of electricity who gained his powers after being struck by lightning while working on a power line. (For you and I, that would give us the mystical power of being dead.) Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: Electro. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: Mister Freeze. Most compelling character: Mister Freeze. Overall winner: Mister Freeze.


Contest #96: Solomon Grundy (DC) vs. The Sentinels (Marvel)

Solomon Grundy is the ultimate super-zombie, who keeps coming back no matter how many times you kill him. The Sentinels are mutant hunting robots, who keep coming back no matter how many times the X-Men dismantle them. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: Solomon Grundy. Most firepower: The Sentinels. Most heart: Solomon Grundy. Most compelling character: Solomon Grundy. Overall winner: Solomon Grundy.


Contest #97: Amazo (DC) vs. Super-Skrull (Marvel)

Amazo is a pointy-eared android who can mimic the powers of any superhero. The Super-Skrull is an alien shape shifter who can mimic the powers of any member of the Fantastic Four. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: Amazo. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Amazo. Overall winner: Amazo.


Contest #98: Deadshot (DC) vs. Bullseye (Marvel)

Two assassins for hire that never miss. Both are skilled in a wide variety of weapons. Bullseye gets bonus points for slitting a man’s throat with a well-aimed playing card. Also, he killed Elektra in front of Daredevil. (She didn’t stay dead, of course.) Classically coolest: Bullseye. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: tie. Overall winner: Bullseye.


Contest #99: Doomsday (DC) vs. Juggernaut (Marvel)

Doomsday is a Kryptonian monster, a virtually unstoppable force that desires only to kill. He and Superman once beat each other to death. (They didn’t stay dead, of course.) The Juggernaut is a man who possesses a magic gem that makes him a truly unstoppable force. In addition to super strength and invulnerability, once in motion he cannot physically be stopped against his will. Not by anything. Classically coolest: Juggernaut. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Juggernaut. Overall winner: Juggernaut. Killing Superman is pretty impressive, but the Juggernaut is more awesome still.


Contest #100: Killer Croc (DC) vs. The Lizard (Marvel)

Killer Croc is a human villain with a mutation that has progressively turned him reptilian: starting as just scaly skin and eventually including super strength, regeneration and other abilities. The Lizard is a surgeon who developed a serum from reptiles to grow back his severed arm. The serum worked, but unfortunately turned him reptilian in the process, giving him super strength, regeneration and other abilities. Oh, and a burning hatred for humankind. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: The Lizard. Overall winner: The Lizard.


Round eleven score: This round was even – DC 5, Marvel 5. Cumulative score: DC 47, Marvel 53.

One round to go!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Super summer showdown, round nine: the schemers

This batch of villains may not possess the near-infinite power of the last batch, but they’re crafty and they just might take over the world anyway.

Contest #81: Lex Luthor (DC) vs. Doctor Doom (Marvel)

Lex Luthor is Superman’s biggest nemesis, a villain who is smart enough to stand toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel without having any super powers whatsoever. Despite being a major baddie, he became President of the United States of America. Dr. Doom is the Fantastic Four’s biggest nemesis, a super-smart, super-powerful villain and ruler of the fictional European nation of Latveria. Classically coolest: Doctor Doom. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: Lex Luthor. Most compelling character: tie. Overall winner: Lex Luthor. Did I mention he was the President? That trumps ruler of Latveria any day!

Contest #82: Ra’s al Ghul (DC) vs. Red Skull (Marvel)

Ra’s al Ghul is one of Batman’s most persistent enemies, the seemingly immortal head of the League of Assassins. The Red Skull is one of Captain America’s most persistent enemies, the seemingly immortal head of Hydra. Classically coolest: Red Skull. Most badass: Ra's al Ghul. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: Ra's al Ghul. Most compelling character: Ra's al Ghul. Overall winner: Ra’s al Ghul.


Contest #83: Sinestro (DC) vs. Magneto (Marvel)

Sinestro is a former Green Lantern whose differing moral views have led him down a different path. He can control the yellow energy of fear. Magneto is a mutant and sometime ally of the X-Men, whose differing moral views have led him down a different path. He can control any metal object. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: Magneto. Most firepower: Sinestro. Most heart: Magneto. Most compelling character: tie. Overall winner: Magneto.


Contest #84: Professor Hugo Strange (DC) vs. Kingpin (Marvel)

Hugo Strange is a creepy, bald crime lord who wears big-rimmed glasses. He was smart enough to figure out Batman’s secret identity and use it against him. The Kingpin is a beefy, bald crime lord who wears white suits. He was smart enough to figure out Daredevil’s secret identity and use it against him. Classically coolest: Kingpin. Most badass: Kingpin. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Kingpin. Overall winner: Kingpin.


Contest #85: Mongul (DC) vs. The Mandarin (Marvel)

Mongul is an alien overlord with vast powers and a racially insensitive name. The Mandarin is an Iron Man archenemy with ten magic rings and a racially insensitive name. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: The Mandarin. Most firepower: Mongul. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: The Mandarin. Overall winner: The Mandarin.


Contest #86: Hector Hammond (DC) vs. The Leader (Marvel)

Hector Hammond is a villain with a giant head who uses his genius, telepathy and telekinesis to fight Green Lantern. The Leader is a villain with a giant green head who uses his genius, telepathy and telekinesis to fight the Hulk. Classically coolest: The Leader. Most badass: The Leader. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: The Leader. Most compelling character: The Leader. Overall winner: The Leader.


Contest #87: Penguin (DC) vs. Doctor Octopus (Marvel)

The Penguin is a brilliant (but out of shape) criminal mastermind who uses trick umbrellas to fight Batman. Doctor Octopus is a brilliant (but out of shape) scientist who uses telescopic robotic prostheses to fight Spiderman. Classically coolest: Doctor Octopus. Most badass: Doctor Octopus. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Doctor Octopus. Overall winner: Doctor Octopus.


Contest #88: Scarecrow (DC) vs. Mysterio (Marvel)

The Scarecrow has a scary mask and uses fear gas to incapacitate his opponents. Mysterio is a special effects master who uses illusions to make his opponents lose their grip on reality. Classically coolest: Mysterio. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: tie. Overall winner: Mysterio.


Contest #89: Gorilla Grodd (DC) vs. Baron Zemo (Marvel)

Gorilla Grodd is a genius, telepathic gorilla with plans to conqueror the world. Baron Zemo is a genius neo-Nazi with a ski mask permanently attached to his face who plans to conqueror the world. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Gorilla Grodd. Overall winner: Gorilla Grodd.


Contest #90: Brainiac (DC) vs. MODOK (Marvel)

Brainiac is an evil alien robot with incredible intelligence who tussles with Superman on occasion. MODOK (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing) is an evil mutant with a giant head and incredible intelligence who wrecks a little havoc in the world on occasion. Classically coolest: Brainiac. Most badass: Brainiac. Most firepower: Brainiac. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: tie. Overall winner: Brainiac.


Round ten score: A small gain for Marvel – DC 4, Marvel 6. Cumulative score: DC 42, Marvel 48.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Super summer showdown, round eight: the masters of evil

In the last round, we shifted from heroic to slightly shady, and now we plunge head-first into evil. These villains are the most powerful in their respective universes, mad despots who want to conquer and / or consume the world.

Contest #71: Darkseid (DC) vs. Apocalypse (Marvel)

Darkseid is the ruler of the planet Apokalips, who uses his god-like power and devastating Omega Beam to try to rid the universe of free will. Apocalypse is an immortal mutant who uses his god-like power and alien technology to conquer the Earth. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: Darkseid. Most firepower: Darkseid. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Darkseid. Overall winner: Darkseid.

Contest #72: Anti-Monitor (DC) vs. Dormammu (Marvel)

The Anti-Monitor was a threat to the entire Justice League, who obliterated the Multiverse, leaving only one out of an infinite number of universes remaining. Dormammu is Doctor Strange’s main baddie, a demon of enormous power whose has caused entire other dimensions to be swallowed up by his own, thereby increasing his dominion and power. Classically coolest: Dormammu. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: Anti-Monitor. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: tie. Overall winner: Anti-Monitor.


Contest #73: Despero (DC) vs. Stryfe (Marvel)

Despero is a cool, demonic-looking alien tyrant with phenomenal power who tries to conquer Earth. Stryfe is a mutant clone from the future with phenomenal power who conquers Earth in the future and travels back in time to try to conquer it in the present. Classically coolest: Despero. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: tie. Overall winner: Despero.


Contest #74: General Zod (DC) vs. Thanos (Marvel)

Zod is a villain from Superman’s home planet Krypton. He has much the same powers as Superman and tries to use them to conquer Earth. Thanos is an alien who uses the magic Infinity Gauntet to try to destroy half the universe. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: Thanos. Most heart: Thanos. Most compelling character: Thanos. Overall winner: Thanos.


Contest #75: Parallax (DC) vs. Dracula (Marvel)

Parallax is the embodiment of fear, a bug-like alien energy creature who poses a major threat to the Green Lantern Corps. Dracula is Dracula. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: Parallax. Most heart: Dracula. Most compelling character: Parallax. Overall winner: Parallax. Marvel actually does a pretty good job modernizing the king of all vampires, but Dracula is still done to death. Originality wins.


Contest #76: Trigon (DC) vs. Mephisto (Marvel)

Trigon is a four-eyed demon, the father of hero Raven, and a thorn in the side of the Teen Titans. Mephisto is the demon who created Ghost Rider and a constant thorn in the side of the Silver Surfer, Thor and others. Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Mephisto. Overall winner: Mephisto.


Contest #77: Kanjar Ro (DC) vs. Kang the Conqueror (Marvel)

Two aliens without superpowers of their own, both of whom use advanced technology to try to conquer Earth. Kanjar Ro is notable for his big nose. Kang is notable for his awesomely tacky costume. Classically coolest: Kang. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Kang. Overall winner: Kang the Conqueror.


Contest #78: Black Adam (DC) vs. Mister Sinister (Marvel)

Black Adam is a former Captain Marvel who turned evil but kept his vast magic powers. He has pointy ears, so you know he’s evil. Mister Sinister is a scientific genius and genetically modified super being with vast power. His last name is “Sinister,” so you know he’s evil. Classically coolest: Black Adam. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: Black Adam. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Black Adam. Overall winner: Black Adam.


Contest #79: Eclipso (DC) vs. Baron Mordo (Marvel)

Eclipso is a version of the Spectre that turned evil. Baron Mordo is an evil version of Doctor Strange. Classically coolest: Eclipso. Most badass: tie. Most firepower: Eclipso. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Baron Mordo. Overall winner: Eclipso.


Contest #80: Imperiex (DC) vs. Galactus (Marvel)

Imperiex is the embodiment of entropy, who consumes many planets before being beaten back from Earth. Galactus is the Devourer of Worlds, a cosmic being of enormous power who must consume planets in order to survive. He has been beaten back from Earth on many occasions, but always returns… Classically coolest: tie. Most badass: Galactus. Most firepower: tie. Most heart: tie. Most compelling character: Galactus. Overall winner: Galactus.


Round nine score: A small gain for DC  DC 6, Marvel 4. Cumulative score: DC 38, Marvel 42.

P.S. It is purely a cooincidence that this posted on 6/6 at 6 AM...